There is a lot more interesting nuggets to ponder in the Accenture Independent Agent Survey.

When agents were asked what they thought was their greatest competitive threat 71% listed “lower price”. Not even a close second was “Better brand recognition and more effective marketing” at 48%.

Let’s explore the IA’s disconnect from consumers and reality for a moment…

First let’s consider that 67% of consumers are willing to purchase insurance from organizations that don’t typically sell it. Do Google, Amazon, IKEA, General Motors and Walmart have “better brand recognition and more effective marketing” than local independent agents? Hell yes.

Do consumers value a lower price? The answer is obvious – of course they do. But they also value something they can only get from agents – advice. 66% listed independent agents as their top choice for “trust most to provide advice…”. “Retailers” got 8% on the same question. THIS is the IA’s value proposition.

Why then do we stupidly insist on focusing on price?

Also, when asked “would you be willing to pay more to get personalized advice or assistance when buying insurance” those in the YOUNGEST age group (18-24) said either “yes certainly” or “yes probably” a total of 49% of the time. Those 25-24 said the exact same thing. Guess who favored “no, probably not” and “no, certainly not” the most? 76% of those 55 and older said that! 66% of those 35-54 said that! It’s weird! Younger purchasers value what IA’s have to offer more than older ones! So, why aren’t we addressing these technically savvy people with something other than cheap?

My conclusions from reading the survey are that agents have no clue about what their customers want, how they want to buy it, how they should market to new customers and what consumers think by generation group.

I also conclude that IA’s have tremendous advantages with respect to the massive online selling and marketing power of the online mega merchants. This is exciting. What is very worrisome though is that they seem to have exactly the wrong idea about what consumers want, who their competition is and what their strengths are. This is leading them to emphasize and market exactly the wrong thing in a competitive environment in which they can’t win doing that.

So, listen to the consumer! Provide services the online merchants can’t. Don’t be afraid not to be cheapest. Find a way to connect with consumers online as well as in person. This is the current recipe for survival and success.

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